Back On The Chain Gang

Ice and steep cliffs make for some challenging hiking on the Hidden Canyon Trail at Zion National Park. Now it's my turn! … [Read more...]

Leaving Las Vegas ….

There is nothing better than escaping a trade show in Las Vegas for the backcountry and fresh air of Zion National Park. After a 3 hour drive Fuller and I arrive in Springdale, UT and stay a short distance from the park. Our first mission is to hike the Hidden Canyon Trail. We climb 850 feet and link up with a steel chain that guides us around a cliff with an insanely sharp drop off.  It is at this point that I remember that I might have a slight fear of heights.And to make things more interesting, we round a corner and see the Trail covered in ice.  Hmmm - better hold on to that chain!     I try not to look down - because damn it's a long way to the valley floor.  Get me off this … [Read more...]

Relying Too Much On Technology On The Trail

Here's an interesting article about over reliance on technology on the Trail.  From Glacier National Park and reported by the Magic City Morning Star:    "I don't know what to do," she said several times. And that, of course, was the problem. They were strangers in this strange land of "no cell service." No texts. No calls. No contact. And while the manager offered her options, the girl's reaction got me thinking. This almost teenager wasn't prepared to handle even a slight deviation from the easy contact comfort of technology. What would she have done in a real crisis?   … [Read more...]

The Ultimate Summer Roadtrip – Part Two (Coming Soon)

Had a chance to record a podcast with Mackie recently for "The Ultimate Summer Roadtrip - Part Two".  It's in the editing room right now and should be ready for release by the end of this week. In the meantime, check out "The Ultimate Summer Roadtrip - Part One" if you haven't already.  It will get you primed for Part Two and recaps a cross-country hiking/backpacking trip I did with Snyder (aka The Ox) two years after my 1996 trip with Mackie (who is shown above at our interview in Richmond, VA). … [Read more...]

The John Muir Trail documentary movie – free thanks to PBS and UNC-TV

Just heard about this documentary that was shot on the John Muir Trail. It's #1 on my list of long trails to do and traverses some spectacular scenery in  Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks. The DVD was released in April 2012 and follows a group of students from the Southeast as they walk the 220 mile Trail in the High Sierra of California. But you can watch it here for free ... thanks to PBS and UNC-TV: Watch High Sierra - A Journey on the John Muir Trail on PBS. See more from WUNC. Or you can listen to a podcast that I did with the Helmet and Doughgirl about the John Muir Trail.  They thru-hiked the JMT  in 2006 and talk about  their preparations, planning, logistics, gear and favorite stops on the … [Read more...]

Newfound Gap Road Closed Due To Landslide

Fortunately, we had no delays during our annual winter hike in the Smokies last weekend, but Newfound Gap is now officially closed per the Hiking The Smokies blog: "A landslide along Newfound Gap Road near mile marker 22 has caused an extended  closure of the road. Great Smoky Mountains National Park has closed Newfound Gap  Road (U.S. 441) due to a landslide which undercut the road near mile marker 22  between Collins Creeks and Webb Overlook at 9:40 am. The slide is estimated to  be a 200 foot section of road extending 1000 foot down slope, but the full  extent of the damage is not yet known. The closure is expected to be in effect  for an extended period of time."  Normally it is snow that closes … [Read more...]

October Superstorm “Sandy” Hits The Smokies

Snow in The Smokies is a common occurance in the winter - especially in the higher elevations - but snow drifts of 5 feet?  And before Halloween?  Unbelievable.     Here's an Associated Press quote from a local newspaper describing a man that got caught on the Appalachian Trail between Pecks Corner and Tri-Corner Knob Shelter: GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — A man trying to hike the entire 2,180 miles of the Appalachian Trail was rescued Friday after calling 911 to say he didn’t think he’d be able to make it out of a section in Tennessee because he was blocked by snowdrifts up to 5 feet high. Great Smoky Mountains National Park spokeswoman Molly Schroer said rescuers used two helicopters to lift out 56-year-old Steven … [Read more...]

Backcountry Fees In The Smokies?

Should the Great Smoky Mountain National Park charge backpackers for camping overnight in the park?  According to an article published yesterday by National Parks Traveler, the answer is a resounding NO:   John Quillen, a Tennessean from Knoxville who fought to have the public comments on the fee proposal made public, says that by his calculation the comments were "almost 20 to 1 against the fee." Part of the concern was that the proposed fees, which range from a low of $4 per person per night to a high of a $10 registration fee plus $2.25 per night per person, could eclipse front-country campsite fees, which range from $14-$20 per night, depending on how many are in your group.   The Park obviously needs money to … [Read more...]

Winter – Once Again – At The Grand Canyon

The Mrs. and I just returned from a trip to the Grand Canyon, and if you haven't seen it - the winter is a great time to go.  There are fewer people, there's no summer 100+ heat, and it's fairly easy to book a room at the last minute - even on a weekend. I made my first trip to the Canyon in 1996 during a three month cross-country roadtrip that put 17,000 miles on my car and had us touch all four corners of the Lower 48.  We arrived on the North Rim in mid-summer with 104 degree heat and mobs of people in every direction.  I'm embarrased to say that we didn't hike a single mile on that trip.     After that experience, I longed for cooler temps and for a backpacking trip to the bottom of the Canyon.  I … [Read more...]

Great Smoky Mountain National Park – And The Machoists Got Pelted

Since the early 90's, some old Appalachian Trail thru-hikers that I know have maintained the tradition of an annual winter hike.  As I detailed in "40 at 40", the trip is never easy and is typically booked within a few weeks of the MLK holiday.   After a four year absence, I made a guest appearance during their three-day ramble of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park this year.  It was mid-way through their hike when we met up at the Mt. Collins Shelter after the machoists had gotten pelted by hail for 30 minutes on Mt. LeConte at 6,593 feet. They then spent the rest of the day climbing to the Mt. Collins in a driving downpour. Well - some of them anyway.  Half of the crew hitched a ride with a park ranger in to town … [Read more...]